30 January 2015

Ebola media sensationalism lead to hostility and resentment for returning healthcare staff

With the arrival of Ebola in the UK in 2014, the profile of infection control and prevention has been elevated in the media, and in the opinion of some, to the point of causing panic. While the risk of an outbreak in the UK is still low, in October the BBC reported that panic about Ebola was spreading faster than the virus.

Healthcare workers returning to the UK from the infected areas in West Africa are managed through Public Health England’s Returning Worker Programme, however their return is not always met with the praise and thanks that their bravery deserves. The sensationalism in the media about the potential lethal consequences of contracting the virus and the limitations of treatment options for those infected could be seen to be responsible for causing fear and even hostility in some members of the public.

Several comments on recent news stories demand that healthcare workers are quarantined upon their return, while other comments state that no-one should be allowed to return from an infected area before quarantine has been completed. The often irrational fear of infection is certainly something that one particular returning healthcare worker experienced.

Peter @Parafinale I face nervousness around me now daily. It's like I'm a leper. It's just misunderstanding of the risk and transmission #nurchat 8:08 PM - 20 Jan 2015

In a recent #NurChat twitter chat on the topic of Ebola and Infection Control, the support for healthcare workers travelling to the infected areas was strong, with admiration and thanks conveyed by many who took part in the discussion.

Megan Betts @MegBetts I have so much admiration for the HCW's fighting the war against #ebola. So brave. #nurchat 8:25 PM - 20 Jan 2015

Gail Mcadam @McadamGail I take my hat off to all they nurses who have went out to care for people with ebola they are doing a wonderful job #NurChat 8:27 PM - 20 Jan 2015

Donna Mullikin RN @DonnaNewcross It's scary. The healthcare professionals involved have shown amazing courage #nurchat 8:05 PM - 20 Jan 2015

Angela Legge @LeggeAngie Wow. Hugely impressed. Must have been a tough job out there. #NurChat 8:10 PM - 20 Jan 2015

There have been concerns that Ebola screening at UK airports has been less than 100% effective, which may have caused several online comments calling for mandatory quarantine for all healthcare workers returning from Ebola-infected areas. While the number of people contracting Ebola in West Africa shows no sign of slowing down, there are still many more nurses and medical professionals ready to volunteer their expertise. Over 70 nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals were in West Africa over Christmas 2014 to help with the infection prevention and treatment effort.

Regardless of the panic that has gripped some parts of the UK, the risk of infection is low and healthcare workers returning the UK after treating people with this deadly disease deserve nothing but our thanks and praise.

About #NurChat

#NurChat is run and operated by Newcross Healthcare Solutions, a leading employer of nurses, healthcare assistants, home carers and support workers in the UK. #NurChat began with the desire to connect staff members in order to discuss current affairs and healthcare-related news. Discussions happen every other Tuesday at 8pm GMT. More information at www.nurchat.co.uk